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“Dangerous Circumstances”

The Council on Foreign Relations Proposes a New Grand Strategy Towards China

Laurence H. Shoup ( is an activist and the author of five books, including Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics 1976-2014 (Monthly Review Press, 2015).
Preserving U.S. primacy in the global system ought to remain the central objective of U.S. grand strategy in the twenty-first century.

Robert D. Blackwell and Ashley J. Tellis1

Background: The CFR and its Grand Strategy China Report

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is the think tank of monopoly-finance capital, Wall Street’s think tank. It is also a membership organization: the ultimate networking, socializing, strategic-planning, and consensus-forming institution of the dominant sector of the U.S. capitalist class. The CFR’s activities help unite the capitalist class to become not just a class in itself, but also a class for itself. It is the world’s most powerful private organization, the “high command” body of the U.S. plutocracy. The Council has an almost century-long history of forming study groups to plan the United States’ overall “grand” strategic policies. It sets the agenda for debate, builds consensus among both the powerful and attentive publics, and then inserts its own network of people into public office to implement its favored doctrines in the real world.2 One of its latest efforts, a study group on U.S. grand strategy toward China, completed its work and issued a report in March 2015—approved by the CFR board of directors—entitled Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China. This report used the term “dangerous circumstances” to describe the growing tensions between the world’s most powerful two nations.3

A key reason to follow the CFR and its activities is that it represents a unique window into the debates within the capitalist ruling class of the United States about both what represents a crisis, and how to handle one, especially regarding strategic and economic questions. Knowing about the policy debates within ruling circles allows the possibility of popular forces intervening and influencing the outcome of such debates.

This article will be published in full on Monday, September 7th.

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